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Update to Cerenity Marian of St Paul


This garden is turning out lovely yet encountered terrible unforeseen issues

Deb O'Halloran, Jane Carlstrom and DeAnn Strenke tackle Phase 2 of garden development at the non-profit senior residence in St. Paul, building on their Phase 1 project from last year.

Phase 1—2021

Phase 1 went smoothly last year. Before we started, we asked for a soil test and educated residents and staff about why it was important. Indeed, the results underscored why some earlier plantings just were not making it in that soil. We completed the bottom tier of the garden last fall, using plantings that are agreeable to their soil, sun, and maintenance conditions available. It was a great educational experience for them as they learned about the importance of soil testing. (Read More about Phase 1: Cerenity Marian of St Paul—2021)

Phase 2—2022

Phase 2 involved designing a new garden area where an old putting green had been laid decades ago. This required a lot of design time but, once designed, we were able to recruit volunteers to take out the old putting green by cutting it in strips.

Like last year, we had tested under the green so we THOUGHT we knew what we were in for but that did not turn out to be the case! The image below shows what we encountered—very uneven levels of class 5 gravel, sometimes 10 inches deep! Class 5 Gravel is commonly used for base under blacktop, and is also used for road and driveway material.

Under the gravel, we found what we believe to be a liner, which was tougher than any landscape fabric we've encountered before. It seemed like roofing fabric,

Under the landscape fabric, we encountered the hardest clay we've ever seen! This is not what we expected at all!

We needed to do a lot of stepping back to consider the situation but we agreed to push forward. The project took two days instead of part of one we expected but, in the end, we know that what we designed will meet their needs:

  • Low maintenance for the staff

  • Lovely for the senior residents

It was quite a challenge and quite an MG experience. We are pleased that our knowledge came in very helpful because there's a good chance this project would have gone a direction that would not yield long term results Cerenity Marian needs.

Deb O'Halloran

Ramsey County Master Gardener volunteer


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